Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Senators Pursue New Iran Nuclear Sanctions
A U.S. Senate panel is set on Thursday to take up legislation aimed at punishing Iran's elite military force and business partners over Iranian atomic activities perceived to have military aims, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Jan. 30).
The bill, announced by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson and (D-S.D.) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), would force President Obama to name, blacklist and prohibit U.S. entry by individuals found to have ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and it would affect entities engaged in monetary and nonmonetary trade with the military organization. The legislation would also require firms publicly traded in U.S. markets to declare any Iran-linked transactions to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The proposal would penalize companies linked to any power-related project in which Iran is a major participant, as well as any such effort that provides related data or systems to the Middle Eastern nation for the first time. It would punish entities cooperating with the nation on uranium excavation, transit or manufacturing operations or other energy projects, though it includes a waiver for persons who pledge to end their involvement in such efforts within a six-month grace period (Donna Cassata, Associated Press I/Google News, Jan. 30).
In addition, the potential punitive measures would cover cargo transit and insurance businesses deliberately abetting the transfer of goods in support of Iranian WMD- or extremism-linked efforts. Iranian individuals would be barred from entering the United States under the bill if they plan to train in power-related areas and are judged to have the intention of aiding Iran's atomic or power efforts, Agence France-Presse reported (Agence France-Presse/Daily Star, Jan. 31).
The legislation enjoys favorable prospects among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, according to AP (Cassata, Associated Press I).
Foundation for Defense of Democracies head Mark Dubowitz said the bill's steps against the Revolutionary Guard would prove "consequential" for Iranian power-related operations, Reuters reported on Monday.
The legislation would allow for unilateral penalties against non-U.S. firms purchasing petroleum from the National Iranian Oil Co. or receiving it through the National Iranian Tanker Co., he noted.
"They don't specifically name them, although the current language in the bill would cover them," Dubowitz told Reuters, adding potential additions to the bill could identify both firms as subjects of interest for probes and penalties.
He expressed a wish for the final legislation to force petroleum firms to verify the lack of Iranian unrefined oil in any refined petroleum goods transferred to the United States (Roberta Rampton, Reuters I, Jan. 30).
Iran is suspected in Washington and other Western capitals of pursuing a nuclear-weapon capabiltiy. Tehran says its atomic activities have no military component.
"We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so," U.S. National Intelligence Direcor James Clapper said in prepared remarks to lawmakers on Tuesday. "We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."
He noted the growth in the Middle Eastern state's uranium enrichment sector. Iran now has two operating plants believed capable of refining uranium to roughly 20 percent. Material enriched to about 90 percent is considered weapon-grade.
"Iran's technical advancement, particularly in uranium enrichment, strengthens our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons, making the central issue its political will to do so," Reuters quoted Clapper as saying during a hearing of the Senate intelligence committee.
"These advancements contribute to our judgment that Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon, if it so chooses," he said (Tabassum Zakaria, Reuters II, Jan. 31).
Iran is also bolstering its backing for extremist and spy efforts against the United States, Clapper said.
“The 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States shows that some Iranian officials -- probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei -- have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived actions that threaten the regime,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek quoted Clapper as saying (Capaccio/Walcott, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Jan. 31).
Meanwhile, an International Atomic Energy Agency team was due on Tuesday to end a three-day visit to Iran aimed at gathering clarifying information on the nation's atomic intentions, Bloomberg reported. The agency in November noted "serious concerns" that the Persian Gulf regional power was seeking a nuclear-weapon capacity (see GSN, Nov. 9, 2011).
The team would confer with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano after leaving Iran, the Vienna, Austria-based organization indicated, adding it would publicly disclose no details from the trip (Ladane Nasseri, Bloomberg, Jan. 31).
The U.N. nuclear watchdog has neither identified Iranian government personnel the delegation was interviewing nor specified whether the group was traveling to any Iranian atomic installations, AFP reported on Tuesday (Agence France-Presse).
The White House on Monday deflected inquiries on whether the administration would finalize in no more than 12 months a decision on employing armed force against Iran, The Hill reported. In remarks aired on Sunday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested Iran would require roughly one year to build a nuclear bomb if it decided to do so.
"The president has made clear two things,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “One, that he is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He has also said that he takes no options off the table.”
Addressing if Panetta's comments establish a deadline for action by the administration, the spokesman said: "It doesn't change our strategy, which is to continue to put pressure, continue to isolate, continue to make clear to Iran what its options are" (Herb/Parnes, The Hill, Jan. 30).
Government sources in Israel said recent economic penalties against Iran have limited the potential for an Israeli attack on the country even as its atomic assets are being moved to less vulnerable locations, AP reported on Monday .
Any significant Israeli blow against Iran's nuclear program can take place no later than the middle of 2012, the unidentified sources said. Prominent security personnel in Israel's government said a determination on a strike must be reached by that time.
Still, government insiders in key positions advocated delaying a potential attack to assess the effect of the freshly adopted penalties. The European Union last week finalized a six-month time line for prohibiting petroleum purchases from Iran, and the United States is expected to implement punitive steps the country's central bank authorized in recent defense legislation.
Jerusalem would employ armed force against Iran if it saw no other alternative, government sources stressed.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday called for rapid action to address Iran's atomic progress.
"We must not waste time on this matter; the Iranians continue to advance (toward nuclear weapons), identifying every crack and squeezing through. Time is urgently running out," Barak said (Amy Teibel, Associated Press II/Google News, Jan. 30).
Elsewhere, high-level Japanese and U.S. representatives are to confer on Thursday on U.S. penalties against Iran, focusing on measures targeting the country's central bank, Kyodo News quoted Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba as saying on Tuesday (Kyodo News/Japan Times, Jan. 31).
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to press Beijing in a trip this week to cut China's purchases of Iranian petroleum, a member of Germany's government told Reuters on Tuesday (Sobolewski/Jones, Reuters III, Jan. 31).
Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday reaffirmed New Delhi's intention not to reduce India's reliance on oil from Iran, AP reported (Erika Kinetz, Associated Press III/Google News, Jan. 30).
Iran's legislature plans to consider on Friday a proposal to ban petroleum exports to the European Union before the bloc's embargo takes effect, United Press International reported. Parliamentary energy panel spokesman Emad Hosseini provided the date to Iran's Mehr News Agency on Sunday.
Panel Vice Chairman Nasser Soudani said the legislation specifies that "Iran will cut all oil exports to the European states until they end their oil sanctions against the country," Iran's Fars News Agency reported. The bill calls for an end to all Iranian exports to nations observing the petroleum penalties, the lawmaker added (United Press International, Jan. 30).
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi on Monday said his country could compensate for any disruptions in petroleum supplies, Reuters reported (Lawler/Mackey, Reuters IV, Jan. 30).
Separately, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council has made preparations for a potential Iranian effort to block the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran has threatened to close the waterway, a key channel for the shipment of Middle Eastern petroleum, in retaliation to an embargo on oil exports.
"Exporting oil or importing goods and cargo through Hormuz is a main concern for the GCC," Kuwaiti coast guard maritime operations head Mubarak Ali al-Sabah told Reuters.
"The GCC has a plan as a body -- not just Kuwait separately or Bahrain or Saudi Arabia -- we have a plan, we just hope that everything stays safe," he said without elaborating on the blueprint.
"Awareness and understanding of the consequences of it has increased," he added. "We have plans how to deal with this but didn't do field exercises on it."
The preparations involved GCC nation navies and coast guards, as well as navies of Western powers including Australia, France and the United States, he said (Maha Dahan, Reuters V, Jan. 30).
Omani Ambassador to Russia Awad Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Hassan and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov have "discussed in detail the situation around the Iran nuclear program," ITAR-Tass quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying on Monday (ITAR-Tass, Jan. 30).
March 12, 2013
The UNSCR 1540 Resource Collection examines implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement measures aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring NBC weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. It details implementation efforts in all of the regions and countries of the world to-date.
Feb. 14, 2013
A new brochure describes the origins and the work of the Nuclear Security Project.
This article provides an overview of Iran’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.